Image via ABC

The Rookie: Watchable, Charming, but Delusional In Its Depiction of Police Work

Joshua M. Patton

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The newest Nathan Fillion vehicle on the ABC network is not that far from his last turn on the network as the writer-turned-amateur-cop Richard Castle. The eponymous series was a great vehicle for the charismatic star because it allowed him to solve crimes but remain a kind of goofball character that worked with audiences. In The Rookie, Fillion plays the oldest rookie in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department, joining the force after divorcing his wife. He’s traded in the homicide investigations of Castle for the street-level police stories of the beat cop. The show succeeds in its main goal, to be entertaining. However, the nature of rising stakes and a general lack of courage to tackle controversial issues makes that street-level police work trend towards the absurd and ridiculous, and not in the good way like with Gotham.

Spoilers for the season so far below.

This isn’t a bad show, and it’s certainly not the worst example of shows that depict police — and the system in which they work — as some infallible paragon of civic virtue. These shows, for drama purposes, show police officers blurring or even outright crossing the line into criminal behavior, all in support of that fifth act conclusion. Arguably, this suggests to the viewing audience at home that real-world instances of bad police work are in service to some sort of noble end. It’s the classic problem with drama. Any show that accurately depicts good police work would be incredibly boring and with little violence. This is why real police officers will go their entire careers without drawing their weapons, and these titular rookies have been in about a eight or nine firefights in the open street. Time is strange on these shows, but they’ve definitely not been on-the-job more than six months.

For what it’s worth, this show does a lot to subvert the typical police procedural structure. Along with Fillion’s John Nolan, Lucy Chen and Titus Malkin, Jr. play his peer rookies, Melissa O’Neill and Jackson West…

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Joshua M. Patton

Entertainment, culture, politics, essays & lots of Star Wars. Bylines: Comic Years, CBR. Like my work? Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/O5O0GR